In the last year, I have been living life to its fullest (and then some). I travelled to several new and exciting places (Key West, New York City for my first Thanksgiving Parade, Assateague for the ponies). I also expanded my physical and mental boundaries with some new active and adventurous activities (parasailing, snorkeling, swimming with sharks, unicycling, tightrope, football). Nothing in the last year, however, compared to the flying trapeze.
Yesterday was the hottest day of 2011 — and it was a perfect temperature to go flying with several members of the media at "Fly City" during the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA). Aaron Stella (Editor, Philly Broadcaster), Linda Pham-Vertlieb (Frugal Philly Mom), Mark Segal (publisher, Philadelphia Gay News), Sarah Blazucki (Editor, Philadelphia Gay News), and Scott Drake (Photographer, Philadelphia Gay News), accompanied my best friend (Rich Brome) and I for a two-hour adventure.
"Fly City" is a partnership between Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and Fly School Circus Arts. Upon arriving, the team from Fly School greeted us enthusiastically! Direct Mary Kelly Rayel gave us an amazing pep talk — including some background on the project and safety precautions. After a brief warm up, Mary Kelly took us to the low bar, which was only a few feet above my head. In the snap of a finger, she had me flying on the low bar, where I eventually learned how to properly turn myself upside down.
After the low bar, Mary Kelly provided some easy to understand instructions on how to wear the safety belt, climb the ladder (that looks at least a mile high), and take off. As soon as she started to show us what came next, my excitement turned into a slight bit of fear. She instructed us to go to the platform, grab the line behind us with one hand, and lean over the platform and ground. She said the instructor behind us would hold our belt, while we leaned over ground and grabbed the bar with both hands.
The reality of these words set in a few minutes later as I climbed the ladder and worked my way onto the platform. After chalking my hands, I was instructed to grab the line with my left hand, lean forward, and eventually let go with the left hand to grab the bar. I am a pretty solid guy, so I was a little scared that the instructor was going to keep me on the platform — as she was half my size. I remember thinking in that split second that this must be what it is like to be suspended in mid-air.
As soon as the instructor said, "hop" I was supposed to hop off the platform and into the air, feet first. The instructor did, indeed, have a great grip on me. She also talked me through the whole process and made me feel comfortable. She also tried to sway any fears by making the process fun.
When I was given my queue, I mentally hopped into the air. However, my body didn't join in. You can see this in the video below. Through the whole process, the instructor had me covered! After some encouragement, my body and mind decided to work together and I hopped off the platform and went soaring for the first time! Once I left the platform, everything else came naturally. Soon I was turning myself upside down, with my legs hanging over the bar, and my hands reaching for the ground. I eventually learned to arc my back and reach for the Kimmel Center.
The first time was slightly challenging as you are not used to logically jumping into the air, or leaning over into mid-air. However, after doing it once, I had a hunger to do it again. The second time we tried some different techniques for hanging upside down. By that time, I was ready for the "catch." I quickly ascended the ladder, took my place on the platform, jumped fearlessly into the air, and within seconds took my place upside down on the bar. I reached out, and the instructor who was flying on the second trapeze took me by the wrists and caught me. He pulled me right over the bar, and I want soaring underneath him. When they explained this part, it sounded simple but yet I couldn't visualize it. After trying it, I am intrigued to do it again! I am proud of myself for doing both the flight and the catch.
My fellow students all did an amazing job as well! Sarah was a natural, as she looked like she had done it a million times. Scott was fearless, ascending the ladder with confidence. Rich had a great stance for his take-off. Aaron had amazing form. Mark fearlessly tried it without reservation — and he brought a lot of humor to the table.
The whole experience was worthwhile — and definitely something I would recommend. The instructor said, "If you miss, we have you with the safety lines. And if you miss the catch, you will simply fall into the net, like when you released from the bar." She was right!
"Fly City" runs everyday until May 1, 2011, with lessons at 9am, 11:30am, 4:30pm, and 7pm. Lessons are open to children and adults, ages six and up.